Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My brother is on the autism spectrum, high functioning but not in a cute, Sheldon Cooper way. He is mostly standoffish, and when he does engage it’s usually pretty harsh. He’s my brother and I love him, but he can be tough to be around even if you know him well.
I’m getting married next year and we are in the early planning stages. My mother made it quite clear she expects my brother to stand up in the wedding. I’m having flashbacks to childhood now where I was expected to include my brother in everything social, even if he didn’t want to be there and my friends didn’t like him. I can almost guarantee my brother would be happier attending as a guest instead of the rehearsal dinner and standing up in the wedding.
Actually, he would be happiest not attending at all. I don’t take this personally. Having him in the wedding would be for our mother, not for either of us.
My mother has a huge blind spot when it comes to my brother and I am tempted to not have any attendants to avoid the whole thing. That is just avoiding the conversation I need to have with my mother, that she pushes me and my brother to interact in a way that isn’t satisfactory to either of us. How do I have that conversation with her effectively?
Sib: “Mom. You’ve raised us. Mission accomplished. I’m going to take it from here, and that includes but is in no way limited to deciding who stands where at my wedding.
“Thank you for all you’ve done. Please now trust me. Trust Not-Sheldon, too, to know for himself what he wants.”
Then live your life as you see fit, and roll with mom’s distress when it flares up: “I’m sorry you feel that way. I asked you to trust the person you raised me to be, and I’m sticking to that answer.”
And if needed: “With all due respect, this is my decision to make. I’m happy to talk to you about other things right now, but not this.”
And if needed: “I’m going now. Bye, Mom.”
Just know that if your parents are paying all or even some of your wedding expenses, you’ll need to be prepared to pay for everything yourselves as the (fair) price of calling these shots.
Re: Spectrum brother: My brother vehemently did not want to be an usher in my wedding or be part of the church service, despite being very happy for me and my husband as we celebrated it. We spoke with him about other ways he could be “in the wedding” without being a traditional attendant.
If this brother would be comfortable taking video, or designing the program that would be passed out to attendees, or something else that taps into a talent or interest he has, then the bride and groom are (a) involving him in a way that may appease Mom and (b) respecting who he is as a person by acknowledging his real strengths and weaknesses instead of making him fit a prescribed vision of how siblings are involved in each others’ lives.
Anonymous: Excellent idea, thank you.
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